The spring home buying season got off to a sluggish start in Greater Hartford with home sales and prices sliding in April compared with a year earlier, a new report Wednesday showed.

The median sale price of a single-family house — where half the sales are above, half below — dropped nearly 3%, to $210,000 in April from $216,000 for the same month a year ago, according to the report from the Greater Hartford Association of Realtors. The trade association tracks a 57-town area from Enfield south to Middletown and gathers its statistics from the Multiple Listing Service.

Sales in April dropped nearly 2%, compared with a year earlier. The sales that closed in April would have typically gone under contract 45 to 60 days earlier.

Real estate agents blamed the decline partly on colder than normal weather this spring, which discouraged buyers from checking out listings.

"We've noticed just this week with the warmup that the phones are ringing more than they were a week ago," said Curt B. Clemens Sr., owner of Century 21 Clemens & Sons Realty in Rocky Hill.

Clemens said the overall weakness in the market also is being fueled a bit by the precarious situation of the state budget and lack of sustained job growth.

"There is a level of uncertainty where the state economy is going to go," Clemens said. "Certainly a lack of meaningful leadership coming from the governor and the legislature brings a level of uncertainty. We have to hope and pray that they wake up after six years and realize you can't keep raising taxes."

The report also pointed to a 20% decline in inventory, with more potential sellers sitting on the sidelines. One possible reason is that some home values have not recovered from losses in the last recession, especially purchasers who bought at the peak of the market in 2006 and 2007.

New listings are considered essential to a healthy market because a fresh supply of properties keeps up buyer interest.

Based on the number of sales in April, which came in at 884, the region has about a seven-month supply of homes for sale. This leaves Greater Hartford in a buyer's market.

A buyer's market is said to exist when there is a six-month or more supply of houses for sale. If it falls below six months, sellers have the upper hand in negotiations because there are fewer options. At six months, the market is said to favor neither buyer nor seller.

Clemens said he is holding out for a stronger May and an even stronger June. He said he is already seeing an uptick in listings in May.

In 2016, house sale prices in Hartford County outpaced several areas of the state, including Fairfield County.

Through the first four months of the year, closed sales of single-family houses rose 3 percent and the median sale price fell 2.4%, the association said. The gains for the year are tied to strong activity in January.

Tribune Content Agency